ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s

13 September 2019

Rebuilt by a team of experts at Land Rover Classic, the ‘missing’ original launch Land Rover demonstration vehicle from the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show returns to the road

  • ‘Missing’ 1948 launch Land Rover sympathetically restored and returned to correct specification, using traditional skills, original drawings and advanced technology
  • Expert team at Land Rover Classic in Coventry set out to preserve as much of the vehicle as possible during challenging year-long restoration
  • Components such as the rear axle casing were X-rayed to make sure they were strong enough to be retained and reused
  • Complete strip down revealed a number of secrets including a George V sixpence as a hidden memento under the galvanised body capping at the rear
  • Land Rover Classic worked with Forestry Commission to identify original wood used on front seatbacks, for absolute authenticity
  • Iconic original 4x4 showcased on Land Rover Classic display at Goodwood Revival Meeting this weekend
  • To find out more about the restoration services available from Land Rover Classic, visit: www.landrover.com/classic or call +44 (0) 203 601 1255

After playing a starring role in Land Rover’s 70th anniversary celebrations last year, the ‘missing’ original launch Land Rover demonstration vehicle from the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show has returned to the road for the first time since the 1960s, following a year-long restoration.

Rebuilt by a team of experts at Land Rover Classic at its Classic Works facility in Coventry, which is dedicated to preserving Land Rovers out of production for 10 years or more, it was renovated using a mixture of traditional skills, original drawings and 21st century technology.

The historically important pre-production vehicle, which had vanished for decades but was found in 2016 in a garden near the Solihull factory where it was built, has been kept as authentic as possible and returned to its correct 1948 specification – including left-hand drive configuration, prototype braking system and all-wheel drive controls.

This approach required the team to strip the vehicle down to its bare chassis and begin a painstaking process of testing and checking which components could be reused and rebuilt following decades of decay and rust.

It was important to strike the right balance when restoring the launch Land Rover. While there was a need to replace some parts, we were keen to keep as much of the original vehicle as possible in order to retain the unique characteristics of this 70 year-old model. The team has done an incredible job and the end result is a testament to the unique expertise and tireless passion of the experts at our Classic Works facility.

Calum McKechnie
Head of Land Rover Classic

While the front axle required no significant repairs, the rear axle showed signs of extreme damage and fatigue. To understand the extent of the problem, the original part was X-rayed and depth-tested using state-of-the-art techniques and found to be strong enough to keep, rather than be replaced. During this process the Land Rover Classic technicians even uncovered the original axle number, which was thought to be lost.

The original through-dash selectable 4WD system controls, known by enthusiasts as the ‘Organ Stops’ due to their similarity with the controls found on church organs, were also reinstated. The trio of pull-push knobs on the dash panel operate the two and four-wheel drive transmission and High and Low range gear selection. This system was only fitted to some early pre-production Land Rovers, before being replaced by a simpler set-up for production. Land Rover Classic technicians used their expert knowledge to reinstate the original combination of rods, levers and linkages to replicate the design of the vehicle when it made its first appearance in 1948.

Pre-production Land Rovers were also fitted with a Lockheed braking system, while customer vehicles featured Girling brakes. Over the intervening decades, the rare set-up on the ‘missing’ Land Rover had been removed, so Land Rover Classic referenced period drawings to restore the authentic Lockheed design. This meant engineering replacement master and wheel cylinders, drums, pads and backplates before the brake pipes were carefully hand-fitted to match the routes followed on the original vehicle.

The flaking exterior paintwork doesn’t look like it has been subject to a year-long restoration, but the goal was always to retain the patina of this important vehicle. Minor repairs were made to the original panels to remove tears and sharp edges. Where new panels were needed, they were recreated in original 2mm thickness aluminium – unique to pre-production models – and painted in the original light green paint, colour matched from the underside of the original seat base, before being aged to complement the original panels.

Bringing this historically important Land Rover back to life was a huge challenge, given its wear, tear and decay from the elements since the 1960s, but also a real pleasure. Being able to open up our archive and revisit the original Land Rover engineering programme from over 70 years ago was a great privilege for the whole team.

Michael Bishop
Land Rover Classic Build Engineer
ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s
ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s
ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s

With the original badge missing, the team went to great lengths to ensure this was recreated exactly as it was more than 70 years ago. To do this, they digitised a photograph of another Land Rover on the stand at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. In-house Computer Aided Design specialists then transposed the photograph to calculate the size of the lettering and its position on the front wing to cast an accurate replacement.

For parts that needed to be replaced or had been removed over the vehicle’s life, the team used the extensive archive of original drawings kept by Land Rover Classic, plus access to other surviving pre-production Land Rovers. These technical illustrations helped to restore the original routing and mounting system of the exhaust, the brass wheel hubs, the gearbox and transfer box.

Interesting discoveries during the work included an original King George V sixpence coin from 1943 which had been deliberately left under the galvanised capping of the rear tub, as a hidden memento, while the team worked with the Forestry Commission to identify the wood type used for the sections at the rear of the front seats. These ash elements were then replaced like-for-like.

With a fully-rebuilt engine incorporating specially-made pre-production-specification high-compression pistons, the result is a vehicle that drives just like it did when it left the factory and retains the unique patina acquired over more than seven decades of use and disuse.

The finished vehicle is taking pride of place on the Land Rover Classic stand at the Goodwood Revival meeting this weekend, before joining the active vehicle collection at the Classic Works facility in Coventry.

The completion of the ‘missing’ Land Rover comes just days after Land Rover revealed the New Land Rover Defender at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. New Land Rover Defender is the most capable and durable Land Rover ever made and can trace its roots all the way back to the original pre-production vehicles from 1948.

To find out more about the restoration services available from Land Rover Classic, visit: https://www.landrover.co.uk/explore-land-rover/land-rover-classic/owner-services.html

ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s
ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s
ORIGINAL LAUNCH LAND ROVER RETURNS TO THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960s

Notes to Editors

TIMELINE: 1948 LAUNCH LAND ROVER

1948 

Built with LHD and listed as Experimental on the logbook and record of sale 

1948 

Upgraded with new production parts by Engine Department, converted to current RHD setup 

1955 

First registered on 25 June 1955 with registration SNX 910 

1961 

Sold to a new owner in Handsworth 

1965 

Moved to Sutton Coldfield 

1967 

Moved to Stratford-Upon-Avon 

1968 

Moved to Alvechurch, Worcestershire 

1968 

Used in Wales as a static power source 

1988  

Engine seized – the Land Rover was sold to a new owner in Birmingham, UK 

2016 

Spotted in a garden, destined for a restoration which never began 

2018 

History confirmed by Land Rover Classic experts and restoration begun

2019

Restoration to correct LHD specification completed

 

About Land Rover Classic

Land Rover Classic is the official source of authentic cars, expert services, genuine parts and unforgettable experiences for classic Land Rover enthusiasts worldwide.                                          

Our team of highly-skilled engineers, graduates and apprentices at the Land Rover Classic Works facility in Coventry specialises in outstanding Reborn restorations for Land Rover Series I and Range Rover Classic.

All enquiries from prospective Land Rover Classic customers should be directed to: info@classic.landrover.co.uk / +44 (0) 203 601 1255

For further Land Rover Classic media information visit www.media.landrover.com